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Human Performance Blog

You don't need to 'Just be Positive'

...'Don't Worry, Be Happy'...'Look on the Bright side'...'Just Be Positive'...


You've probably heard these or some other variation of the positive thinking, or positive vibe mantra more often than you care to remember. They are especially present on social media where mindset and motivation have become the 'it thing' to talk about. And, from well-intentioned friends and family members.


However, adopting an unwavering 'Be Positive' attitude, not only isn't enough, but it can also be a not so positive thing.


When positivity is overused or consistently used as the band-aid response to a challenge, issue, hardship, or authentic emotional response, it becomes toxic. (cue Britney Spears soundtrack)


How can being Positive be Toxic?


Toxic positivity can be defined as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations.



It is toxic when used to effectively minimize, deny, overlook or invalidate an authentic human experience.


It is toxic when it compels to fake or pretend to have 'positive vibes' by ourselves or from others.


It is toxic when it causes you or forces others to repress the naturally occurring emotion.


It is toxic when a monochromatic mindset of positivity is expected.



Toxic Positivity shows up by eliciting shame, suppressing emotions, and promoting inauthentic interactions.


Shame comes when you feel as though a positive outlook is forced upon you. This creates an internal struggle of 'feeling bad, for feeling bad', feeling guilty, or that you shouldn't feel what you do feel. It encourages silence, secrecy and judgement-perceived or real.


The Suppression of Emotions occurs when you stifle or pretend to not feel an 'undesirable' emotion. Suppression actually has a physiological impact on the body, increasing the internal stress response. So even if you look calm and cool, on the inside its not a pretty picture, and can manifest as more serious issues.


Inauthenticity happens when you begin to feel like you can't be your true self around people. Where you create a persona for the world to see, hiding and denying how you truly feel. Or even for specific people that may have shamed you into suppressing your feelings.



Even though, 'Just Be Positive' is the way of the world at the moment, think about this...


~Do you notice how good it feels to find someone that you can actually be comfortable talking about how a bad day is/was and be heard?

~Do you notice how stifling and defeating it feels when you are really not feeling good, to be told, 'It could be worse, think/be positive, or just move on!'


Note: Being upbeat is important, but it is equally important to feel the more difficult feelings. This is the basis behind the 'it's ok, to NOT be ok', movement.


Are you toxic?


Surely you don't mean to be, and of course the quick whips and responses come from a well intentioned place, wanting to make it all better, or from a discomfort with real/undesirable emotions (but that's for another blog).


Some common statements that can be toxic include;


“Don’t think about it, stay positive!”

“Don’t worry, be happy!”

“Everything will work out in the end.”

“Positive vibes only!”

“If I can do it, so can you!”

“Everything happens for a reason.”

“It could be worse.”


Guilty of being toxic?

When talking with a loved one that is having difficult time, try these non-toxic responses instead;


“What are you feeling, I’m listening.”

“I see that you’re really stressed, anything I can do?

“This is really hard, I’m thinking of you.”

“I’m here for you both good and bad.”

“Everyone’s story, abilities, limitations are different, and that’s okay"

“I see you. I’m here for you.”

“How can I support you during this hard time?”

“That sucks. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”


So no, you don't need to 'Just be Positive', you need more than that, 'Show Up' for yourself and others.


High Performer Tip: They don't attach positivity with performance, resilience or adaptability. The solution is in being constructive, useful and helpful. Showing up and being present.

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